The headline case of Lori Vallow – Chad Daybell and their two missing children, 7-year-old “J.J.” Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan is perplexing. Lori Vallow’s family and friends believe the trouble began when Lori joined Chad in what is now being called “a cult.”
The International Cultic Studies Association defines “cult” as “an ideological organization, held together by charismatic relationships, and demanding high levels of commitment.” Most recently, the “New Religious Movement” (NRM) is the term used in place of “Cult.”
The case background explains how Lori Vallow could have been drawn into Chad Daybell’s world. In 2006, Lori married her fourth husband, Charles. (Lori already had a daughter, Tylee, by her third husband.) Lori and Charles adopted a boy, “J.J.” In 2015, Lori became obsessed with books written by Chad Daybell, who foresees doomsday. Chad had a wife named Tammy. In 2018, Lori and Chad began podcasting together on “Time To Warrior Up” through a company, “Preparing A People.” After Lori disappeared for 58 days, Charles filed for divorce. Caveats cite that 1. Lori threatened to kill Charles. 2. Lori stole $35,000 from his account. 3. Lori claimed to be, among other things, “a translated being … sent by God to lead the 144,000 into the Millennium.”
In March 2019, Charles dismissed the proceedings; he is shot dead by Lori’s brother Alex three months later. At the same time, Lori’s niece Melani divorces her husband, Brandon, possibly to join Lori and Chad’s “cult.” In October 2019, Tammy Daybell was found dead. Lori and Chad soon marry. Lori’s brother Alex is found dead. In December 2019, law enforcement announced J.J. and Tylee as officially missing and Lori and Chad as “persons of interest.” (Full timeline see Krutzig) Lori and Chad repeatedly lied and stalled the investigation, then fled to Hawaii.
One technique used by a cult to change a person is “Create a Thought-Reform Environment.” This includes “suppressing old behavior and attitudes.” It involves 1. Get the person to reinterpret their life history drastically. 2. Radically alter their worldview. 3. Accept a new version of reality and causality. A potential cult member is at a “Crossroads” in life – the person is questioning their life for some reason; it may be disappointments, social status, or their future; they may be worried about the state of their world: the future of their country. The cult will show this person “a better way of life.” They will use isolation, ego-boosting, and psychological manipulation (“brainwashing”).
J.J.’s grandmother, Kay Vallow Woodcock, said, “Things started changing over the past 18 plus months when Lori began spending all her time with a new religious group, that we refer to as a ‘cult’… she has completely changed into a monster … something happened to her … Once she got involved with that cult with Daybell, she just turned off the person we knew just went away.” (Sheets & Shen).
Another technique in “Create a Thought-Reform Environment” includes “Instilling new behavior and attitudes.” One tactic is to destabilize a person’s sense of self by developing a person’s dependence on the organization. The cult introduces “a new reality”: the person is added to the group’s way of thinking, acting, and living. A “we vs. them” is created (in this case, it may be The Enlightened vs. The Nonbelievers).
Chad Daybell has declared himself a prophet, and the general theme of his books is prepping for the apocalypse – doomsday, the world ending in part due to its “wicked ways.” Daybell was also a member of the Mormon Church (Church of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS) and a “prepper” who stocked up on food, water, and weapons in preparation to survive the end of the world. “Prepping” is something Mormonism once supported, says an expert. And “There are new Mormon groups that start every single day,” Dr. Cristina Rosetti, an expert who has researched fundamentalist Mormons, told Daily Mail. “The Mormon Church is very susceptible to schisms and the starting of new movements” (Gould). Chad Daybell was booted out of The Mormon Church in fall 2019. The Mormon-based “Preparing A People” has made it clear they are not responsible for Chad Daybell. He was affiliated with “Preparing A People,” “a series of lecture events focusing on self-reliance and personal preparation … providing several LDS speakers and authors an educational forum…. (Daybell) spoke at some of the ‘Preparing A People’ events, but had no ownership in it, nor was he a founder.” The www.preparingapeople.com website reads.
Cult leaders are charming individuals, well-spoken, and excellent listeners. Most are narcissists. They can quickly read people, to see their weaknesses and then feed off of and use those weaknesses to their advantage. Leaders will create chaos so that they can stop the confusion, demonstrating their “power.” They will make promises (called “dangling the carrot”) to encourage others to follow; it might be wealth, happiness, eternal life, or a combination. Many cults are splinter groups from religious organizations, and the cult leader may declare himself as a deity, or someone who can receive messages from a higher power.
Are Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell members of a cult? Vallow could have been drawn into Daybell’s world through “Thought-Reform Environment.” After spending time with Daybell, she threatened to kill her husband Charles, stole from him, and made bizarre claims. At least one family member has reported a drastic change in Vallow after she met Daybell. And for someone who is searching for answers, a cult leader will know precisely what to give that individual. By its definition, a “cult” can be anything from a church to a pyramid company to a social club. If it is a cult, Lori Vallow will not break away easily. Cults, by nature, are easy to join, but difficult to leave due to emotional and spiritual attachments.
Judith A. Yates is an award-winning true crime author and criminologist. She is currently researching cults for her fiction book, due out in the summer of 2020. She recently spoke at the 2019 A. Markle Symposium hosted by the Dr. Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science.
Note: This article does not infer that every Mormon (LDS) parishioner subscribes to the same belief system.
Before you say, “I would never…” read this compelling story of one woman’s cult experience here:
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International Cultic Studies Association
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Gould, M. (December 24, 2019). “EXCLUSIVE: Cult leader on the run with a mom whose kids have been missing since September declared himself a ‘prophet,’ wrote 25 books on ‘prepping’ for the apocalypse – and was thrown out of the Mormon church AFTER children vanished.” DailyMail.com. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7823081/Man-run-new-wife-kicked-Mormon-church-declaring-prophet.html
Krutzig, S. (January 7, 2020) “A timeline of the events surrounding the disappearance of J.J. Vallow and Tylee Ryan.” Post-Register. Retrieved from https://www.postregister.com/news/crime_courts/a-timeline-of-the-events-surrounding-the-disappearance-of-j/article_44af7af1-d4ff-5c8e-af39-db1a6b2bad2e.html
Sheets, M. & Shen, M. (December 23, 2019). “Terrified relative says it’s no coincidence there have been four mysterious family deaths and two children now missing after their mom joined ‘dangerous religious cult’ obsessed with the end of the world.” DailyMail.com. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7821133/Family-missing-children-7-17-disappeared-September-say-mom-joined-cult.html
More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
J. A. Yates is an award-winning author and criminologist who has appeared as a guest speaker, lecturer, and instructor for organizations across the United States for almost 30 years, to include Dallas Area Paralegal Association, PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians & Gays), Texas Association of Licensed Investigators, Tennessee Correction Association, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and many more.
Her resume lists loss prevention, the Sheriff’s Department, the federal prison system (minimum to maximum, male & female), investigations, and criminal justice professor/instructor. She is the only journalist who is continually investigating the disappearance of Tabitha Tuders, Nashville’s most baffling missing child case.
Not only is she an author, but she is also an investigator who carefully researches each book. A percentage of each book benefits nonprofit organizations and is made in the victim’s name.
Ms. Yates is Texas-born, Irish/Native American/Kentucky – bred; a left-handed Taurus. She volunteers in animal rescue and locating missing/murdered. Hobbies include horseback riding, perusing flea markets, and video gaming. She is addicted to bottled Coca-colas. She has a phobia of clowns, dental offices, and alligators (not in that particular order)
Check her out here: www.judithayates.com
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